OU football: Morris, offensive line looking to build off Nebraska game

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Sep. 22—Oklahoma's offensive line finally got back to full strength last Saturday with the return of senior offensive tackle Wanya Morris.

Prior to the Sooners' season opener against UTEP earlier this month, Morris was listed as the team's starting right tackle. The senior didn't play, however, and OU head coach Brent Venables said after the game that Morris was "going through some things that we're trying to help him through off the field," but never went into detail about the reason for Morris' absence.

The Tennessee-transfer made his return during the offense's third possession in their 49-14 win over Nebraska. The Sooners' front five dominated the line of scrimmage on their way to eclipsing 300 yards rushing and 580 yards of total offense.

Though the two-week absence was tough, Morris said he approached it as if he'd been given extra time to prepare for the season.

"Being over there showed me I need to work on my little fundamental things more and more each day," Morris said. "Because the little things are what make you great."

The Sooners' offense came out of the gates slow for the second week in a row with punts on two of their first three possessions of the game. Oklahoma's second possession of the game was nearly stopped in its tracks before a 61-yard designed run by Dillon Gabriel put the team's first points on the board.

The offense found its stride in its second possession with Morris on the line and went on to score touchdowns in six of their next seven possessions.

"I thought getting Wanya (Morris) back was good just to have another good player, first of all, to throw in there and continue to give us the kind of depth and development up front," Venables said on Tuesday. "Our guys are playing hard right now. We're far from perfect, coaching and playing, as we continue to figure each other out."

Still, while Morris' contribution to the offensive line looked promising, it was only a matter of time before the Sooners' broke through against a Huskers' defense that ranks 128th nationally in scoring defense.

This week, the Sooners face a Kansas State defense that's allowing just 9.7 points per game and 128.3 rushing yards per game. Of the Wildcats first three opponents, only one has managed to average more than four yards per carry.

"Our guys have not been naïve whatsoever," Venables said about the offensive line. "They're willing to put the work in and pay the price to be successful. You have to pay a price. It doesn't just continue to happen. The schedule gets more difficult moving forward, starting with Kansas State this week. But I really am pleased with the improvements that we've made."

Still, having depth on the offensive line could be crucial for the Sooners as they begin Big 12 play. Tyler Guyton, a redshirt sophomore transfer from TCU, was given the starting job in Morris' absence and got valuable reps playing alongside a new offensive line this season.

"I was proud of him," Morris said about Guyton. "He came in here and did what he needed to do. He was doing his thing. You can only be happy when your guy is doing his thing and performing the way he should be."

Instead of practicing with the team's starters, Morris moved over to the scout team and was going up against Oklahoma's starting defense every day. The new role gave senior an opportunity to face work on his fundamentals against players like Reggie Grimes, R Mason Thomas and Marcus Stripling.

"For me, I just took it as a learning period," Morris said. "Took it as an experience to get better. I got two more extra weeks than everybody else to stay prepared and get ready. All I did was stay in the weight room, stay in the playbook. When I came back, it was like clockwork."

Tarik Masri is a sports reporter for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing tarik@normantranscript.com